Europeanization is the only rational alternative for Belarus and its people, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Ažubalis said at the workshop for young Belarusian leaders that was organized in Gratiškės, Trakai district, on May 14. According to the Minister, experience of the Eastern European countries tells that in this part of the world no one has yet succeeded in living “in between”. Those who were undecided were absorbed by non-democratic forces, Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports.
“European Union does not offer tantalizing short-term solutions. It offers instruments for long-term integration of those willing and able. The EU requires adherence to democratic values and principles, yet it also offers support for those who make this choice,” Ažubalis said.
He regretted that at the moment when other EU countries in the region were actively negotiating on free trade agreements, Belarus was sliding into deeper self-isolation from Europe and increasingly participating in the post-Soviet integration projects. This engagement with Russia and integration into post-Soviet structures is not always playing in the interests of the country and is being implemented without consent of Belarusian people, the Minister noted.
According to him, the European Union has a two-track policy for handling its relations with Belarus, i.e., keeping up the pressure on the non-democratic regime and strengthening its engagement with civil society in Belarus. One of the best examples of engaging with civil society is the facilitation of travels of Belarusian citizens to the EU member states. Last year, Lithuanian Embassy in Minsk and Consulate General in Grodno issued almost 150 thousand visas, 25 per cent of them were issued free of charge. “In order to facilitate the travel of Belarusian people to Lithuania and vice versa, the local border traffic agreement was signed on October 20, 2010,” Ažubalis said. The agreement will enable a simplified travel procedure for all people living in the area of 50 kilometres from the common border. Lithuania has finished all the necessary preparations; the ball is now in the Belarusian court.
The event for young Belarusian leaders was organised by the Robert Schuman Institute.